Something that I have been thinking about a lot is usefulness. There are moments when we have items in our home that are not useful to us. Sometimes we have apps on our devices that are not useful. Maybe at a time they seemed useful, but things have changed. But usefulness isn’t only something we consider as objects or possessions. People can be useful or not useful too.
Paul was writing to Philemon about the runaway servant Onesimus. He tells Philemon about this change that has occurred. Yes, Onesimus was deserving of punishment, which could have meant a death sentence. It was within the legal limits. But Paul mentions this great conversion of Onesimus. Not only did he give his life to Jesus, but in doing so, he became useful. In saying, “Not my will, but Your will be done,” he became useful. God had big plans for Onesimus!
If someone would consider your usefulness, what would they say? Would they describe you as very useful? Do you think you are very useful? Or is something getting in the way? That something could even be you! Truth be told, you have a great purpose. God has known this since the very beginning. It is a purpose that I pray you embrace and pour yourself into as an offering. Aim today to come to terms with this usefulness, and if the Spirit convicts you, follow His leading. It is a very dangerous prayer to say, “Use me.” Yet is a prayer than can help position you for what God has already prepared. Be useful. Plant for a good harvest.
“Onesimus hasn’t been of much use to you in the past, but now he is very useful to both of us.” – Philemon 1:11 [NLT]
Kindness is always refreshing. In this dark world, kindness is a great light that shines brightly. Paul wrote about how he had such joy and comfort from knowing of the love that was being shown to others.
Paul also recognized that kindness refreshes people’s hearts. The word that is used means “to give rest.” It means to have a pause, rest, or to take ease. Kindness allows people to be free to simply share the love. For many it is a breath of fresh air. Kindness makes life much easier, and much more blessed.
Today, share that refreshing kindness to others. Ask the Spirit to help you be a blessing to someone. Be intentional. Look out for the best interest in others. Take notice. Speak life. Hold open the door. Smile. Your kindness is refreshing. Consider how God will use whatever you do in His name to further His kingdom. That one smile could encourage someone to be bold today. That one word of encouragement could be the push that starts a fire in someone’s heart. That extra time spent being kind to someone could help someone to truly feel the love of our Father.
“Your love has given me much joy and comfort, my brother, for your kindness has often refreshed the hearts of God’s people.” – Philemon 1:7 [NLT]
- Paul wrote letter to Philemon while he was in jail.
- Philemon’s house may be where the Colossian church met (v. 2).
- Philemon had a slave Onesimus (v. 16).
- Onesimus means “useful” or “beneficial.”
- Onesimus was useless to Philemon – slave who stole money and ran away.
- Paul converted Onesimus.
- Onesimus is now useful to Philemon and Paul. (v. 11).
- Though Onesimus was helping Paul while he was imprisoned, Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter to appeal for forgiveness for Onesimus. Roman law required this to happen.
- Philemon owes Paul his life – his very soul— salvation in Christ (v. 19)
- Paul asks Philemon to charge all that is owed by Onesimus to his (Paul’s) account (v. 18). He offered to pay for Onesimus’ sins against Philemon.
Friendship – Forgiveness – Reconciliation
Ephesians 4:32 – Forgive as you have been forgiven
Forgiveness comes through Jesus. Through Christ alone we have forgiveness and reconciliation to God. Reconciliation means “coexist in harmony” or “restore friendly relations.” We only have the ability to forgive others because of the Holy Spirit.
Forgiveness has a cost. Paul offered to pay the cost. Onesimus could have been punished – even with death. Our cost for forgiveness was paid by Jesus Christ.
Forgiveness is always necessary. Paul asks Philemon to do the right thing. He could have punished Onesimus or he could forgive him and receive him as a partner. The word used means “fellowship.”
Forgiveness from God lasts forever. When we are transformed, becoming a “new creature” in Christ, the Spirit changes us from the inside out – just like Onesimus. This is forgiveness and transformation that lasts forever. The board is wiped clean.
Bible Study Questions:
1) Paul mentions in verse 14 that he preferred to do nothing without consent in order that Philemon’s (fih-LEE-muhn) goodness be of his “own accord.” What does this mean?
2) Paul wrote in verse 21 that he was confident of Philemon’s obedience. How could he be so confident that Philemon would forgive and do even more than asked?
3) Forgiveness, Paul notes, will take Onesimus (o-NEH-sih-muhs) from position of bondservant to beloved brother. Was he asking for Philemon to free his slave Onesimus or does this beloved brother mean something else?
4) Read Colossians 4:7-9. Onesimus was sent along with Tychicus (TIH-kih-kuhs).
How was he described?
Why do you think Paul had Onesimus go along with Tychicus to deliver the Letter to the Colossians as well as the Letter to Philemon?